It’s like a guilty pleasure, or that one habit that you can’t kick. It can even become an obsession.
It’s Instagram stalking.
Whatever you want to call it – stalking, lurking, creeping – we’re all guilty of it, and if you say you haven’t, I’ll spare everyone else the trouble and say, respectfully, your pants are on fire.
There’s something about our human need to know more, to minimize uncertainty, which I think drives us toward lurking on other’s social media to begin with. It could be your ex’s new girlfriend, and you might wonder to yourself: Is she really pretty? What does she do for a living? Where did they meet? Or maybe it’s that new guy that you’ve been on a few dates with: Is he seeing other people? What are his friends like? What kinds of pictures is he liking? We want to find information simply to satiate our own curiosity, and with the help of social media, we can do it with no interpersonal interaction whatsoever.
If I like you I’m stalking you on ALL social media platforms cuz wtf is you doing when you not with me? 😂👀
— El Polo Loco 👑 (@leilani_capalot) February 20, 2021
me stalking vs me when i hurt myself looking 🥴 pic.twitter.com/uhkSsJ2AdB
— DOXIE 🌻 (@dox_gay) February 17, 2021
Now – the burner account. Again, don’t say you don’t have one. The length that many of us will go to answer some of our burning, unanswered questions can be extensive. I’ve known friends to use fake accounts when their personal account was blocked, or when they wanted to watch an Instagram story without it being traced back to them. Some have even used them to leave comments on other’s pages. It’s creepy, it’s time consuming, but most of all, it has some severely adverse effects on mental health.
Marion Underwood, a psychologist at Purdue University, and Samuel Ehrenreich, assistant professor at the University of Nevada, researched the effects of lurking on Instagram, and found that this kind of internet stalking breeds five kinds of stress: dealing with annoying content, lack of privacy, social comparison, jealousy, and relationship conflict. Sound relatable? When you begin to carefully monitor someone else’s actions on social media, you begin to unnecessarily compare yourself, encounter feelings of inadequacy, and possibly jump to conclusions that simply are not based in truth or reality.
Furthermore, internet stalking can become biologically addictive, with dangerous results. U.K.-based psychotherapist, Noel McDermott, explained this phenomenon in a publication, saying: “Using social media through a phone or computer tends to produce a chemical in the brain called dopamine. In this instance, it feels good to create and check the second account, but it’s a temporary feeling. Like with anything that gives too much of a good thing, you’ve got to come down. As soon as you put the phone down, you’re going to get irritable and twitchy – most people don’t even realize this is a symptom of withdrawal. And because it’s a mood-altering chemical, you can even develop anxiety or depression.” Noel also explained that when you see a photo or comment that you weren’t expecting, your chances of ending up with mood issues are increased due to these “emotional and psychological consequences.” This is where Instagram stalking can become like a drug, you continually go back to it, looking to find something, forming what is recognized as a kind of psychological addiction.
With social media being as central as it is to many of our lives, it is nearly impossible to keep from lurking all of the time. However, maintaining mental health must be prioritized over all else.
So, what can you do to break the cycle? Firstly, try and hold yourself accountable for how much time you spend lurking on someone’s page, and be mindful of how far down the lurking rabbit-hole you’ve gone. *Hint – if you’ve found their ex-girlfriend’s-best friend’s-brother’s-dog, you’ve gone too far* Lastly, be mindful and take note of how you feel when you wrap up lurking for the day – does it ever make you feel good? Are you looking with the goal of finding something that might surprise, hurt, or shock you? Are there other things that you could have done with that time that might have brought you happier feelings? Breaking up with Instagram stalking can be a huge step taken in protecting mental health and peace of mind. However, as with many addictions, it is unfathomably difficult to quit cold-turkey.